The Nintendo Switch’s Portability is Overstated

The gimmick of the Nintendo Switch isn’t quite up to speed (yet).


Nintendo systems have become known for their gimmicks; 3D, motion control, dual screens, etc. When the Nintendo Switch was announced last year, the system’s focal feature was its portability. While the Switch serves as a traditional console plugged into your tv, you can remove it from its dock and use it in a portable mode. The physical system operates as both the console and a portable gaming machine. On the surface, it’s a great idea.


Just want to sit on your couch playing video games? Have a blast. Oh, you gotta go somewhere while you’re in the middle of something and you can’t really stop or you wanna watch something on tv while you play? No problem, just pick it right up off the dock and take it with you. You can use the Switch as either a portable station with separate controllers or as a handheld device. You can literally play on your Switch anywhere at any time through any method. But is it really as practical as people are making it out to be?

There’s no doubt that the Switch’s portability is pretty good. The functionality is there and it’s an effective method of playing your games on the go. In fact, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild runs better in the Switch’s portable mode than it does docked at your tv. It obviously works as a feature and is a strong selling point for the console but just because the system is portable doesn’t mean that it’s automatically a better handheld device than the Nintendo 3DS.


This is a topic that has come up a lot this week with Nintendo’s announced of Pokemon Ultra Sun & Moon. Many people, myself included, were anticipating the announcement of the rumored Pokemon Stars to be released on the Switch. When Nintendo announced that the latest entry in the Pokemon series would be exclusive on the Nintendo 3DS, everyone apparently went into an outrage. I’ve seen a lot of arguments that the Nintendo 3DS is outdated and that the Switch is now Nintendo’s new handheld system and I vehemently disagree with those takes. Pokemon coming to console and whether or not Ultra Sun & Moon should be on the Switch is a separate topic but the point here is that there is a strong belief that the Switch is now Nintendo’s handheld console. It’s not.


The Nintendo 3DS, much like all of Nintendo’s past handheld systems is small and compact. I can literally take my 3DS anywhere that I want and all I have to do is throw it in a bag or slide it right into my pocket and I don’t have to worry about it. The Switch is not just a handheld device, it’s an entire home console that is significantly more expensive. I can’t just slip it into my pocket or a backpack and be on my way. I need a case to protect it from damage and I need a bag to carry it in. Just because the Switch is portable doesn’t mean it’s the same as a handheld system.

Now ultimately, do I want Pokemon on the Switch? Yes. I don’t take my 3DS with me very often so I wouldn’t mind seeing Pokemon convert to a full-fledged console game but I do appreciate what it means to be able to bring my 3DS with me. Comparing that to the Switch is objectively wrong. Might the Switch end up being closer to a true, handheld device in future versions of the system? Sure. I expect that the Switch’s portability will evolve over time and be significantly improved as there’s clearly already a strong foundation to work with. But for the time being, it’s portability is overstated and the 3DS is going nowhere.




8 thoughts on “The Nintendo Switch’s Portability is Overstated”

  1. Hmm, not sure I agree with this. Nintendo might not have said it (yet) but the Switch /is/ the successor to the 3DS, with the added advantage of it being able to dock it to a TV.
    If you ask people on Nintendo forums, most owners have used the Switch as a handheld 90% of time because it works so well – it’s also, in my opinion, far more comfortable to use for extended periods than the 3DS.
    Yes, it’s a bigger device but a £10 hard case does the job fine and I find myself taking my Switch with me everywhere 🙂


    1. Ultimately, I think there’s a good chance that the Switch merges the two systems and becomes Nintendo’s only model for gaming. But until it’s been refined, I don’t think that’s a move Nintendo is going to make. They’re the only company that has been able to maintain a grip on the handheld market and it works well for their target demographic. I’ve primarily used my Switch in portable mode but if I want to take a gaming system with me somewhere, I’m still more likely to bring my 3DS.


      1. ” I’ve primarily used my Switch in portable mode but if I want to take a gaming system with me somewhere, I’m still more likely to bring my 3DS.”

        Curious as to why that is. Do you just prefer the 3DS hardware or is it the bigger software library? Granted, I can’t play the likes of Fire Emblem or Pokémon on my Switch (yet) but I’ve not felt the urge to go back to my 3DS since picking up the Switch in March.

        Sorry, not saying you’re wrong, you’re just the first person I’ve spoken to who has preferred the 3DS over the Switch when it comes to handheld gaming so just curious 🙂


        1. I mean, my 3DS is effectively just a Pokemon machine. If I go somewhere and I want to bring a game along, Pokemon usually does the trick for me. I just like that the 3DS is compact and I don’t have to worry about it. If something happens to my 3DS, no big deal; I have a couple of them and they’re easily replaceable. The Switch is fine if I was going somewhere for a day or two but if I’m going on vacation for a week, I don’t really want to bring it with me. Just one man’s opinion.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice post and I appreciate a dissenting opinion from the usual crazed hoards of gamers following something like the Pokemon Direct!

    If it were 7 years ago, I’d agree with you about the size of the device not being “portable”. However, nowadays, I’d only agree as far as “handheld” implying a much smaller device, ie. the 3DS. But both can be held in hands without support, so by definition they’re both handheld, one is just smaller and more compact.

    What is making people frustrated is that Nintendo is splitting hairs where they should be showing full support for the Switch and transitioning off of the 3DS. It’s an old system – this is just a fact. It’s got 240p resolution and even the PSP has done several times that since the late 2000s. It’s antiquated and outdated in every way. Great library? Hell yeah. But the Switch is no bigger than the iPads or Kindles people carry around and has graphical fidelity fit for 2017.

    Early investors in the Switch are thirsty for new large games, and the Pokemon Direct was basically “an old game on the new system, and new games on the old system.” Imagine if you bought a new car and they released a DIY flying car kit, only compatible with your old one. You’d feel pretty burned too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also, one more thing on favoring the 3DS – the last Pokemon game (SuMo) ran like hell on the 3DS and didn’t even use 3D! If that doesn’t tell you how underpowered and outdated it is, I don’t know what else will! We’ve now got a beautiful shiny portable that -is- supposed to replace the 3DS (hence the merging of both console and handheld game development teams at Nintendo), and folks want to see a mainline Pokemon game on the big screen for the first time ever.

      Sounds dramatic, but this is an old franchise at this point that’s only existed on handhelds! Pretty crazy to think about, even with all of the consoles in between the Gameboy and now, eh?


      1. Sun/Moon had no issues on the newer models of the 3DS and I’ve always thought the 3D was an unnecessary gimmick. Don’t mistake what I’m saying, I’m not saying that the 3DS is better than the Switch. I really like my Switch and I think merging the handhelds into the home console is a great idea that’ll work in the long term. I’ve been screaming for Pokemon on console for years, so you’re not getting any argument from me there. All I’m saying is that as of right now, I don’t think the Switch is as big of a portable force as people have made it out to be.


  3. I tend to agree 🙂 I don’t have a Switch but I have a 3DS and a Playstation Vita. I LOVE my Vita and all the games on it, but it’s not as easily portable as the clamshell design of the 3DS… so its my 3DS that gets taken to work more often.

    Liked by 1 person

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